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Music Review
by John Preedy - a blogger in the Lot

Götterdämmerung – The Twilight of the Gods
Wilhelm Richard Wagner - New York Metropolitan Opera Production

New York Metropolitan Opera
– Simulcast Saturday 11th February 2012 -

I'd forgotten just how spectacular this opera is musically!

I don't simply mean the well known sections, like Siegfried's Funeral March, but the way that Wagner weaves his leitmotifs together to tell the story at a different level from the words being sung; or sometimes to comment on the action, by revealing in the music, the forces at work behind the drama. I will never again say that the first scene with the Norns is boring! This time, listening with a more educated ear, Wagner's genius and hard work just blew me away!

To pop-up a YouTube video - click here
To pop-up a YouTube video - click here
- Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde -
To pop-up a YouTube video - click the image above

The Cast
In this production the whole cast was of the highest quality. I can criticise none of them for their singing or their musicality. In fact I'm totally in awe of the principals who are capable of sustaining their concentration and physical resources over such a long period of time.

The Cast - Performance Reviews
Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde, Waltraud Meier as Waltraute. To pop-up a cast review - click here
Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried. To pop-up a cast review - click here
Deborah Voigt & Waltraud Meier
Jay Hunter Morris
Hans Peter König as Hagen and Wendy Bryn Harmer as Gutrune. To pop-up a cast review - click here
Iain Paterson as Gunther. To pop-up a cast review - click here
Hans König & Wendy Harmer
Iain Paterson
Eric Owens as Alberich. To pop-up a cast review - click here
To read a cast members review - click an image
Eric Owens

The Metropolitan Opera orchestra was very ably directed by Fabio Luisi. Overall it was an excellent performance and I have just a couple of minor quibbles.

He stated in the interval that he was trying to brush away the accumulated heavy Germanic tradition of Wagner performances. Occasionally this led him into taking a few tempi rather fast, sometimes pushing the singers to accelerate their phrasing. At the end the orchestra was, understandably, tired resulting in a few untidy brass chords but it was a long live performance!.

The Production
So that leaves the production by Robert Lepage. It’s difficult to describe in words but instead of conventional scenery and flats they used a series of huge triangular shaped segments, pivoting around a horizontal axis and extending right across the stage. To paint these segments with colour and movement they used video projection. This is a flexible system and can be very effective, for example, by setting some of the segments vertically one can create the pillars of the Gibichung’s hall. Or by setting all the segments at a shallow angle, and then projecting water flowing around rocks, one could create the Rhine for the Rhine Maidens, (who, by the way, were all excellent and whose voices blended very well).

Twighlight of the Gods - The Set.
The Set

Once you have decided to take this route, which unsurprisingly has had its mechanical problems, you’re more or less forced to use it throughout. So then the quality of the video, or the graphics, becomes supremely important. This was mixed. I got tired of the wood grain effect associated with the Gibichung’s hall, and at times I couldn’t see the relevance of moving some of the segments but not others.

I thought that the ending of the whole opera, when Valhalla burns, was very weak. The flames were not convincing, and the collapsing of a few plaster gods into dust at an upper level was a very poorly conceived idea, a real damp squib.

I also hated Grane, Brünnhilde's mechanical metal horse, which was ponderous and unnecessary. It should be quickly put out to grass! Why not have it on video in the distance? That way it could also fly instead of slowly rolling along!

There should also have been much more use of traditional stage lighting as a backdrop to the projected images.

We are all so used to fantastic CGI effects that there is much more scope for creativity using projection than was demonstrated in this production. But rather than try to compete with movies, I think that for future productions using this system they ought to employ a contemporary artist to design the projected graphics and videos, looking for a more abstract effect. Perhaps they should use someone like David Hockney, who did such a brilliant job for the Magic Flute years ago.

But if you’re lucky enough to have booked tickets to see the whole Ring cycle in the spring don’t let these criticisms put you off. Based on this simulcast I can assure you that you’ll enjoy it! The music and images are still going round in my head days later!

John Preedy, Blogger
Video - Deborah Voight as Brunnhilde This website

Story: John Preedy

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